THE AGRICULTURAL Wages Board is persisting with this year‘s wage rise, despite warnings that it may lead to more job losses.

The AWB has ignored the NFU‘s request to consider the impact of this year‘s harvest and approved the 5.1% rise previously agreed earlier in the year.

“Many farmers are already experiencing cash-flow problems due to the difficult harvest,” said Bob Fiddaman, NFU wages board chairman.

“Combine that with an increased payroll and you can only predict a negative impact on jobs.”

The 5.1% increase will come in to effect on Oct 1 2004 and represents a rise twice the rate of inflation and above national average wage rises.

The standard rate will rise from £5.15 to £5.40/hr; harvest workers‘ wage will rise to £4.85/hr in line with the National Minimum Wage and craftsman‘s rate will rise to £6.37 up from £6.02/hr.

“Employers sent in more than 100 detailed submissions about the operation of their businesses,” said Mr Fiddaman.

“We made a case that the AWB should take into account this year‘s poor harvest, but those arguments seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” he added.

The NFU has now called for an urgent review of the AWB, saying that the challenge of adapting to a modern and competitive marketplace is being made more difficult “by outdated and supposedly impartial decision makers like the AWB”.